The beginnings of routine
“I pursued the elusive book through several rooms and did not find it in any of them, but each time I did find at least a dozen, perhaps two dozen, perhaps two hundred, that I had never read.”
Two hundred books unread… safe to say that’s my experience (bound to have dipped into some of them…) and more, oodles more - decades of collecting providing an unwieldy though comprehensive but never complete collection - some GA becoming possibles for reissue (or not) - hence titles recently available through OREON & Galileo.
Delighted to find an encouraging extract from Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, referencing Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose - one of my 100 favourite books), philosopher, writer and book collector:
“The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an anti-library.”
Enough said - picking one up, soon absorbed - glorious!
Of course, when responding to a certain frequent question - ‘we’ve got that - want to borrow it?’ my wife might well say ‘and pass it not back when you’ve finished it!’ And the ensuing hunt sometimes fails miserably (we’ve few rooms) - and sometimes there may be good reason why it can’t be found…
Oh - some recent additions to my booky-book stacks - Revenge of the Librarians: Cartoons by Tom Gauld (9781838858216) and Remainders of the Day: More Diaries from the Bookshop, Wigtown (9781800812420) by Shaun Bythell - both glorious laugh-out-loud treats!
As for what’s next to be read - just a few out of these - have polished off the Cavanagh and the Disher - both living up to expectations!
That’s all for now
Susan Hill Howard's End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home
Nicholas Taleb The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose
Tom Gould Revenge of the Librarians: Cartoons
Shaun Bythell Remainders of the Day: More Diaries from the Bookshop, Wigtown
John Dickson Carr The Black Spectacles
Welcome to the blog! It's been nearly three months since my ‘retirement’ from Heffers - and among the generous leaving gifts, a first edition of Baroness Orczy’s The Old Man in the Corner - an unnamed armchair detective sits in the corner of teahouse ‘solving those crimes baffling to the police’. I, too, like sitting in corners and have been doing so, reminiscing on this past year.
Similarites abound (apart from the obvious - an inability to find solutions to real crimes), there’s been a regular frequenting of nearby cafes (and hopefully nothing will change in that direction), publishers generously paying for drinks and occasional meals (enormously grateful!). I’ve always liked chatting about books, especially crime (fiction) - and in turn remain ‘fed’ by everyone’s choices too - probably why I’ve stacks of books…
Reflecting on my ‘paid hobby’ of bookselling at Heffers - and of a special memory, earlier this year, of taking in the whole length of the shop from an easy chair in the front corner window, adjacent to shelves housing books about Cambridge, and marvelling at this beautiful space (nooks and crannies - surely book-drop heaven). Indeed, once upon a time bookshelves would’ve obscured this view. It was a special evening, listening to Kate Rhodes and Sarah Vaughan in conversation, discussing Sarah’s latest book, Reputation.
Just the other day in Heffers, I removed several small posters (with permission!) attached to the side of the bookcase by my old desk on the right-hand corner of the gallery. Apart from one for the British Library mystery classic, Bernard J.Farmer’s Death of a Bookseller, published earlier this year, there was also a poster featuring favourably kind comments from reviewer Barry Forshaw on a past event - Bodies in the Bookshop, held annually each July for twenty two years, with many crime writers participating, signing books and chatting to readers. My thanks go to those colleagues who willingly helped and for Mike Ripley’s support and his regular organisation of an after event supper at a nearby restaurant - fun evenings.
In more recent years, pre-Covid, several multi-author crime evenings took place each year: in the summer - What’s Your Poison?, Murder Will Out in April and Murder under the Mistletoe - at Christmas; each event hugely enjoyable though with fewer authors attending, each of them speaking for a couple of minutes, providing a flavour of their books and then signing.
And talking of Mistletoe - there’s a Christmas Golden Age Crime list up on the site now, with an additional selection of crime fiction by contemporary authors & non-crime offerings for your perusal - by no means the full list yet! Check it out here.
And quickly back to Death of a Bookseller, I had the privilege of meeting Bernard’s daughter earlier this year. Little did I realise she was a great friend of a former colleague who encouraged my setting up and curating of a crime fiction section at Heffers in the late 1980s - small world and a lovely unexpected connection!
One from the Attic: Up in my loft study - slightly more chaotic than I’d wish at the moment, the entries for the Gold Dagger are stacked up around the desk. I stumbled across a yet-to-be-read copy of Hallam James’s Fair-Isle Jumper Mystery: The Exciting Story of a Holiday Party in Wales. Looks fun! Secondhand copies can be found for quite reasonable prices!
I've also come across another favourite I must mention here - although aimed at children (of all ages) Lane Smith’s picture book is a joyous quick read. It’s a Book is definitely a must-have for any bibliophile!
And finally, a glance at the next on my TBR pile - a stand-alone from Garry Disher The Way it is Now (Viper). I’ve really enjoyed the previous ones in the ‘Hirsch’ trilogy (a fourth, ‘Days End’ due 08/23) - set in the Australian outback - all wonderfully well-crafted police procedurals (Bitter Wash Road, Peace, Consolation). I loved them.
That's it for now - 'til next time!
Crime expert at Heffers for 40+ years, Chair of Judges, CWA Gold Dagger and crime fiction lover.